Movies We Love: Wayne’s World

Adapted from the Henry James classic of the same name, Wayne’s World traces a young provincial girl’s journey toward self-realization and womanhood.


(It was necessary that a “Not” “joke” be worked into this at some point, so let’s just be thankful that we’ve gotten it out of the way this early.) Wayne’s World is, of course, the film adaptation of the seminal, 90s, Saturday Night Live sketch about two slacker BFFs, Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers) and Garth Algar (Dana Carvey). The duo host a wildly popular, Aurora, Illinois-based public-access show, broadcast from Wayne’s parents’ basement. The film elaborates on this premise by giving Wayne a robo-babe love interest, Cassandra (Tia Carrere), and introducing Benjamin (Rob Lowe), a smooth-talking television executive who plans to exploit “Wayne’s World’s” popularity and drive a wedge between Wayne and Cassandra.

Why We Love It

If you’re anything like me, and were born in the early 80s, then you were in grade school the first time you saw Wayne’s World. You laughed and laughed, from start to finish, quoted the movie to your friends while playing four-square or wall-ball, perhaps even reenacted Garth’s pelvic thrust-laden, “Foxy Lady” dream sequence – much to your grandmother’s horror. The funny thing about this period of unbridled, adolescent, Wayne’s World fervor is that there’s no way that you (at 8, 9, or 10 years old) understood what the hell was going on in this movie. It doesn’t matter how intellectually advanced you were at the time, you couldn’t have really picked up on more than 10% of the humor, and that’s a generous estimate.

In one scene, for example, Garth snoops around Benjamin’s “fully functional babe lair” and finds a box of condoms. He holds them up to the camera and says, “ribbed for her pleasure…Ewww.” At eight years old, I thought this was hysterical (and repeated the line to my mother…a lot, which I’m sure she was thrilled about) despite (a) not knowing what a condom was (b) not knowing what the word “ribbed” meant and (c) just generally not understanding the entire sentence. My laughter, then, had everything to do with Dana Carvey’s delivery of the line, which is goofy and kind of brilliant in its own, simple way.

This is the beauty of Wayne’s World; the gags are amazingly nuanced and satisfying on so many different and unexpected levels – from basic silliness that appeals to the more elemental regions of your sense of humor (Wayne’s “psycho-hose-beat” ex-girlfriend, Stacy, crashing her bike, hard, into a parked car), to lighthearted, non-sequential, almost surreal, social commentary that you have to be at least moderately intelligent and culturally literate to grasp  (a product placement bit that features Garth pontificating about “selling out” while dressed, head to toe, in Reebok apparel), to the sort of meta humor that can only be fully appreciated by movie buffs (Wayne opening up a door to a room where men are training, like in a martial arts film, not because it has anything to do with the plot, but because he’s always wanted to do so).

Wayne’s World is funny. Really there isn’t too much more to say. In an age where so many comedies underestimate the importance of humor, here is a movie that’s brimming with it – just layer after layer of funny. And like most of the movies we love, it seems to offer something new with each viewing. Wayne’s World is a movie that you can grow old with. It’s a movie that I’m growing old with.

And even when you understand the implications of every joke and pop culture reference and have memorized every last bit of dialogue – and you will be compelled to memorize every last bit of dialogue – Wayne’s World is a rare comedy in that it will actually make you smarter. Because I’ve watched this movie, I know how to say “you look pretty” in Cantonese and that Milwaukee is the only American city to have elected three socialist mayors.

Moment We Fell In Love

I think we’ll go with a little “Bohemian Rhapsody,” gentlemen.

As hilarious as almost every scene is (can you tell that this is my absolute, favorite movie yet?), Wayne and Garth’s jaunty, Queen sing-a-long while cruising in the Mirth-mobile, is synonymous with Wayne’s World and exemplifies the movie’s playful spirit. I don’t even know that I could totally pinpoint why this moment is so great. I mean, there isn’t anything overtly clever about it. Well, the choice of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with its, what, 45 tempo changes and all-around epicness, was pretty genius. But on the face of it, this scene should be dumb, or just trivial. But it isn’t. And there’s something clever in that.

Final Thoughts

Saturday Night Live is notorious for beating its audience over the head with recurring sketches–sketches that were, possibly, funny at one time, but certainly not as great after the fifteenth reiteration. The show is also notorious for turning those recurring sketches into god-awful movies. Wayne’s World is an anomaly. But an anomaly that can be explained. Unlike every other SNL movie, Wayne’s World’s premise lent itself to film adaptation – the sketch didn’t revolve around one joke, it was always about these two extremely charismatic guys who had stalled somewhere between adolescence and adulthood. Wayne and Garth are a winsome pair. They’re enduring figures. Even after a sort of mediocre sequel, it’s still exciting to see Myers and Carvey reunite from time to time, as middle-aged Wayne and Garth.

Isn’t it dreamy? Check out more Movies We Love

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